We have learned to organize, build institutions, publish books, insert ourselves into the media, develop evangelistic strategies, and administer discipleship programs, but we have forgotten how to pray.
Are we better at organizing than agonizing? Better at administering than interceding? Better at fellowship than fasting? Better at entertainment than worship? Better at theological articulation that spiritual adoration? Better–God help us!–at preaching than at praying?
-D.A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation
These are some pretty tough words by Dr. Carson. I know they are not meant to be an indictment on every believer or every church, but nonetheless, they should halt us in our tracks and cause us to reflect on whether or not we really are people of prayer.
I know we know to pray. But many times our understanding of knowing to do something does not necessarily translate into action. I have personally made more commitments to have a more vital prayer life than anyone I know.
So what do we do? As I began thinking about the need for believers and churches to continue strong in prayer, I came up with a few thoughts that might be of some help and encouragement.
1. We don’t pray to get God to love us!
Our times of prayer are about getting in touch with how much God loves us rather than times of earning his love. We approach the throne of God because the Father chose Christ “to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). We don’t approach a God who is angry with us!!!
2. We must plan to pray.
When each day are you going to set aside a few minutes to pray? You must have a time and stick to it. Let nothing interrupt this time if at all possible. I know this can be a tough thing to do, but it is critical that you MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO PRAY and that you KEEP THAT APPOINTMENT.
3. Know what to pray.
Do you have a prayer list or notebook? Are you praying for family, nonbelievers, etc…? You might consider praying through Scripture or allowing it to guide you as your pray. For example, as you read the command to “love your enemies,” pray for strength to do so.
4. Pray continually.
As you go throughout the day, make it a habit to pray for various people that come across your path or mind. Pray as you drive or walk from place to place.
5. Find a prayer partner.
When you find a partner to pray with weekly, it will not only encourage you, but also strengthen your commitment and desire to pray.
6. Don’t worry about being a “spiritual giant.”
So many times, especially for those who start afresh in praying, we worry that we don’t pray for hours like those of Martin Luther or George Mueller. Personally, I don’t think the goal in prayer should be about a length of time, but about communing with God. So don’t beat yourself up about only spending 10 or 20 minutes in prayer.
7. Read some good books on prayer.
8. Most importantly, you learn to pray by praying.
All the things mentioned above, though helpful, are not meant to be rules. J.I. Packer writes: The only rules are, stay within biblical guidelines and within those guidelines, as John Chapman puts it, “pray as you can and don’t try to pray as you can’t” (quoted from A Call To Spiritual Reformation).